Are there nuclear power plants in our future? After the BP oil spill disaster, people is business and politics are beginning to think what used to be the unthinkable: nuclear power. In 1979, a film called “The China Syndrome” came out, with the premise that a meltdown at a nuclear power plant could open up a hole that would extend through the center of the earth all the way to China, on the other side of the globe. This was the same year that the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania became the site of the worst civilian nuclear accident in US history, when it suffered a partial meltdown. These two events created strong US opposition to nuclear power plants, and there has been resistance to them here ever since.
But a growing number of environmentalists are urging a serious examination of nuclear power, which has an unparalleled safety record since the industry took action after the Three Mile Island incident. On June 3rd, spurred by the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama called on Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and pass a clean-energy bill that he said would help the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels. Obama said the country’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels “will jeopardize our national security, it will smother our planet and will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk,” and outlined a set of goals that included improvements in energy efficiency and pursuing nuclear power.
Amir Adnani, CEO of a uranium energy company, says, “America’s energy policy is in need of significant revision for reasons including national security issues, balance of payment problems and environmental concerns. The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a reminder that we have to consider risks as well as what is convenient and cheap. Consequently, as oil production becomes riskier, other forms of energy generation grow relatively more attractive. The overall mix of energy sources has to change.
“The massive investments the Chinese are making in a nuclear future as part of the nearly 60 new nuclear plants under construction worldwide, as well as four nuclear reactors ordered by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, suggest that coming change in the mix of energy choices favors nuclear power. Our continuing thirst for oil is going to force companies like BP to go to greater lengths and depths to satisfy our demand. It’s obvious right now that they are operating at or beyond the limits of their technology. Going deeper and farther out will only increase risks that are rapidly approaching unacceptable levels.”
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